Traveling alone can be nerve-racking even when you’ve done it many times before, but especially for first time travelers, the one thing that’s most challenging is finding the confidence.
But it’s not only about finding the confidence to book the tickets and get on the plane (of which there has been much written on) – once you’re out there traveling, confidence is something you have to maintain.
Fortunately, confidence is quite like riding a bike – you get better with practice. And even if you’ve fallen out of practice, it’s a skill which naturally comes back to you once you get going.
But like anything in life, you can lay down the groundwork in advance to put yourself in a better position once you’re in the thick of things. So, with that in mind, here are tips for maintaining your confidence when traveling alone.
You’ve already booked your tickets and committed to go. But now how do you ride that wave and keep that surge of confidence going?
Tips for Maintaining Confidence When Traveling Alone
Surround Yourself With Confidence
Confidence breeds confidence, so our biggest tip for maintaining your own is to seek it out when you’re traveling alone. Both positivity and confidence are contagious!
This might mean seeking out and introducing yourself to other solo travelers. A great place to meet others is by staying in hostels, which have a great social scene, but even if you’re not a hostel person, their bars are open to non guests – so head over in the evenings regardless.
You can also meet other solo travelers on walking tours, or download apps that connect travelers, or join Facebook Groups like Solo Female Travelers to find people to hang out with in your destination.
If you’re not confident striking up conversations with strangers, stay in close contact with friends or family who actively encourage you and are genuinely interested in your adventures – this can be a huge boost of confidence that you got this!
Remember that fear is just as contagious as confidence, so don’t surround yourself with people you know will pull you down, and consider going cold turkey for a while on the crime shows. No need to watch Liam Neeson in Taken!
Fake Confidence Until it’s Real Confidence
Fake it till you make it absolutely applies when it comes to confidence – as we said, it’s something that comes with practice, and builds up little by little over time. But there’s nothing wrong with a bit of acting in the meantime!
A lot of people find that learning to act confident, even ween you don’t feel it inside, puts you on the fast track to finding it naturally. Learning to act confident in your destination will also go a long way to ensuring your safety, and as you build up safe experiences, this will boost your confidence in kind.
For example, if you’re walking tall and purposefully, making eye contact with people, and willing to chat with locals with a few basic phrases of their language, it makes you less likely to attract unwanted attention.
So stop into shops to chat with locals, ask people for directions so you know where you’re going and along the way your confidence levels will build up naturally.
Do Your Homework
Research is one of the biggest keys to maintaining your confidence when you’re abroad. Knowledge is power, and just like in any other aspect of life, the better you prepare in advance, the more confident you are.
When you’re armed with information like knowing exactly how long it’ll take to get from the airport to your hotel, or how much you should spend on a taxi ride, you’re far more likely to do it right, and make the correct choices.
And doing your homework means you can anticipate any potential challenges and have back up plans so you know how to react if something doesn’t go to plan (you can mentally rehearse your backup plans in advance as well if you want to).
There’s a certain level of romance in just winging it, and traveling spontaneously, and if you’re confident enough to do this that’s fantastic! But winging it means only having a shallow knowledge of a situation, and needing an ability to think on your feet in the moment.
Taking the time to deeply prepare for any role or task can really transform your confidence, and this is exactly the same for when you travel. Preparing means you know you’ve got this covered!
Arrive During the Day
A great tip for maintaining your confidence is to arrive at new destinations during the day. It’s a lot tougher to travel and navigate a new destination for the first time at night, and areas around train stations or even bus stations tend to shut down early.
Even the most beautiful towns can appear somewhat eerie at night, so make sure that you do everything you can to arrive during the day so you can get your bearings before you have to worry about it getting too dark.
If you have a local contact who can meet you once you arrive, even if it’s only for a coffee for a call if you’re having a moment, this can be a great way to feel more at ease in a new destination. And everyone seems to have a friend of a friend with the connectivity of social media these days!
Dress to Blend-in
Confidence wavers when you feel like every-one is staring, or when you feel like you’re standing out, so make your best effort to act like a local and blend in, away from the tourist crowd.
Naturally, tourists are abundant, and there’s nothing wrong with being one. However, if you appear too uncertain and vulnerable when you’re traveling alone, other people can pick up on that and it may attract the wrong kind of attention.
It’s a cycle that feeds itself because unwanted attention may lead to negative experiences, which then in turn damage your confidence further.
Look at what other people are wearing and then take that into account, and this can be part of your prior research. Keep in mind that bare arms, shoulders and legs are considered risqué in some countries, so dressing conservatively is always bet.
If you’re traveling in Iran as a woman, you might want to wear a Hijab. If you’re in Australia and it’s hot, you’ll probably have to show skin to blend in (and you’ll need a good selection of sunglasses).
Tips for Solo Dining
One of the biggest concerns people have about solo travel is finding the confidence to eat alone. But eating alone is a power move, and just the simple act of doing it will make you feel more confident.
So many solo travellers hate dining alone, and feel as though they’re going to look lonely or strange. But if you’re feeling like this, have a chat with the staff, embrace people watching, or use the time to look through your photos from the day.
It’s so ingrained into our cultural mindset that eating is a social passtime, so this can be a really huge step for some people. But you don’t have to start with a restaurant, so if you’re worried about this, start small with a cafe, bakery, or bar.
Ordering a drink first can really help with any anxiety you might have, and really focusing on what’s around you (eavesdropping is my guilty pleasure!) can open your eyes to a whole new world you may not have seen before.
Plus, think about how you view people who eat alone. Do you look at them and think ‘wow they must be really lonely?’. Or do you look at them and say ‘Wow – go them. They’re so confident!’.
I personally think the latter.
How do you maintain confidence when traveling alone?